The media have a long and muddled fascination with children and students reading, especially declaring that we are experiencing a reading crisis. However, even more concerning that this misguided click-bait approach to journalism is that the media more often than not promote crisis rhetoric with misinformation.

I. Education Week

Possibly the most (un)impressive example of this is from Education Week. In just the last few weeks, EdWeek has posted a catalogue of misinformation about their favorite topic—the science of reading:

Here are a few reminders about the nonsense and misinformation that EdWeek will not set aside:

II. Newsweek

Next is a nonsense article, more misinformation, from Newsweek: Education Expert: A Love to ‘Read by Three’ Is the Answer to Success.

Consider instead this response from Stephen Krashen:

This is a response to Bethlam Forsa, “A Love to ‘Read by Three’ Is The Answer to Success.” (https://www.newsweek.com/education-expert-love-read-three-answer-success-1727222).

Published in the Newsweek Expert Forum, an “invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives and entrepreneurs.” (This response was not invited.) Forsa cannot be reached by email or telephone. She is the president of Savvas, formerly Pearson K12.

It is widely believed that failure at grade 3 predicts school failure later on in school (Forsa, “A love to read by three,” 7/25/22).

If true, we should study what factors predict success by the end of grade 3.

In Lao, Lee, McQuillan and Krashen (2021), we summarized the results of three studies of ten -year old children on a test of reading comprehension, the PIRLS test, 10 year olds in 45 countries in 2006, in 57 countries in 2011 and in 61 countries in 2016. 

The number of children tested ranged from 3349 to 18,245 and was administered in the national language of the country.

In agreement with Forsa’s recommendation, the best predictor was access to reading material, represented here as the presence of a school library). High levels of poverty meant lower levels of reading competence, as did the amount of reading instruction in school and whether children had developed some reading competence before starting school. 

The clear winner: access to books. There was the most popular recommendation among the public, direct instruction in reading, was not a strong predictor. There is plenty of support for this predictor from other studies, see especially the work of Keith Curry Lance. https://keithcurrylance.com and S. Krashen (2004).

Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

Lao, C., Lee, S-Y., McQuillan, J., and Krashen, S. 2021. Predicting reading ability among ten-year olds: Poverty (negative), school libraries (positive), instruction (zero), early literacy (zero). Language Magazine 20,10: 20-21. https://tinyurl.com/cn3nekc4

See also the following:

III. The New York Times

The NYT certainly is running a close second to EdWeek for misinformation (see here and here). But the newest NYT article is even worse than misinformation because it is really bad (and not surprising) news: New Reading Curriculum Is Mired in Debate Over Race and Gender.

It is important to connect the dots and recall that states have banned reading programs, as reported here:

The Arkansas Division of Secondary and Elementary Education announced in October 2019 that any curriculum that utilizes cueing strategies won’t be approved for use in the state, meaning that Calkins’ materials and another popular program, Fountas and Pinnell Classroom, are effectively banned. Colorado released a list of approved core reading curriculum, and Calkins’ programs weren’t on the list. A group outside St. Louis sent a letter signed by 216 parents, students and taxpayers to the school board asking that Calkins, and Fountas and Pinnell be dropped. The Oakland Unified School District, whose use of Calkins’ products was highlighted in the 2019 APM Reports story, announced it was forming a committee to consider adopting new curriculum. And Student Achievement Partners, a nonprofit consulting group, published a review that concluded Calkins’ curriculum materials are “unlikely to lead to literacy success for all of America’s public schoolchildren.” 

Influential literacy expert Lucy Calkins is changing her views

Republican legislation has begun to erode academic freedom among previously respected academic publishers, such as Heinemann. The combination of politics and the market is bad news for teachers, bad news for education, and bad news for students.


The great irony facing us now is that the very worst place to read about reading is mainstream media—unless you are prepared to do the hard work journalists are not doing and interrogate the tired and relentless misinformation at the center of all the misguided crisis rhetoric around reading.